‘We feel that with the publication of this, our first number of The Beacon, a new milestone in the history of The National Institute has been passed,’ read an article in 1917. Today, The Beacon has become NB Online, and The National Institute has become RNIB. We mark some of the milestones that have happened during a century of publication.
Blind Persons Act – a landmark in legislation for blind people – makes it a duty of local authorities to provide for the welfare of the blind, and extends the old age pension to blind people at the age of 50 instead of 70.
Bristol photographer James Biggs, who has been blinded in an accident, paints his walking stick white so that motorists can see him more clearly.
Chorleywood College for Girls opens. It is the first college for girls with visual impairment. Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen was first set up in 1866.
Bannow House home for blind convalescent veterans and holiday-makers opens at St Leonards-On-Sea. Today is it a retirement home.
The Beacon becomes ‘New’ Beacon, with a new approach. ‘The thirties must be different’ says the editor
Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond set up the Guide Dog Committee (which is now, after several changes of name, known as Guide Dogs).
The four people in their first trial class are extremely pleased with their new dogs
Guilly d’Herbemont launches a scheme for a national white stick movement for blind people in France. Rotary Clubs sponsor a similar scheme in the UK, and BBC Radio broadcasts programmes suggesting that all blind people are provided with one
The Scottish Association of Occupational Therapists (SAOT) is founded
Blind Voters Act – permits the blind voter to take a companion to the polling station
RNIB starts its Talking Books service, initially for blind veterans of the First World War
Pedestrian crossing introduced in Britain
The Association of Occupational Therapists is founded for England, Wales, Northern Ireland
The Association of Occupational Therapists offers the first diploma examinations for occupational therapy in England
The Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital (Moorfields), the Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital, and the Central London Ophthalmic Hospital merge to become Moorfields, Westminster and Central Eye Hospital
Ophthalmic surgeon, Harold Ridley, implants the world’s first intraocular lens at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, in a breakthrough for cataract treatment. The operation is internally televised – another first – so that other surgeons in the hospital can watch it, as long as they promise to keep it secret.
Harold Ridley leaves the first artificial lens permanently implanted in an eye. This is widely disparaged as far too dangerous and is viewed with considerable scepticism for some years but it opens the door for ocular implants of all kinds. By the end of the 1980s it has become a common technique for cataracts in the US, and is now standard in the UK. (At the end of the 1980s Ridley has his own lenses replaced and points out that he is the only man to have invented his own operation.)
RNIB Northern Ireland established in Belfast
Training college for blind telephonists and typists opens at Pembridge Place, London
UK’s first ophthalmic pathologist, Professor Norman Ashton, discovers that the excessive oxygen given to compensate for breathing problems associated with premature birth can cause blindness. As a result, oxygen is delivered with much greater care and fewer babies develop retinopathy of prematurity
RNIB establishes the National Eye Donor Scheme, encouraging people
to donate their eyes after death for corneal grafting and other therapeutic purposes
Norman Ashton sets up the research funding organisation Fight For
Sight, which provides funding for some of the major breakthroughs including Professor Robin Ali’s work in 2007 and genetic research into congenital cataract and keratoconus
Dr Charles Kelman introduces phacoemuilsification surgery – using ultrasonic waves to remove cataracts without a large incision – which revolutionises the procedure
RNIB celebrates its centenary, with a special exhibition showing its progress over the previous hundred years
RNIB opens Tate House, its first purpose-built care home for deafblind people
The British Association of Occupational Therapists (BAOT) is formed from a merger of The Association of Occupational Therapists and The Scottish Association of Occupational Therapists
Education act requires local authorities to ‘make provision for handicapped children in ordinary schools’ wherever practicable
Professor Alan Wright of the University of Edinburgh identifies the first gene in retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which becomes one of the main subjects for genetics research
UK Corneal Transplant Service established
Professor Roy Taylor of Newcastle University starts his mobile eye screening programme for people with diabetes from the back of a second-hand ambulance. Over the next two decades the programme is taken up across the UK. Today, the NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme, introduced by the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) in 2003, invites approximately 2.5 million people for screening every year and is a major reason why diabetic eye disease is no longer the leading cause of blindness in adults of working age
London Association for the Blind (first founded in 1857) changes its name to Action for Blind People
The Disability Discrimination Act makes it illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of their disability, and compels employers and others to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people
The Broadcasting Act 1996 legislates for a percentage of TV programming to provide audio description for viewers with visual impairments.
RNIB launches The Helpline telephone service. Today it encompasses departments including eye health, counselling, bursaries and benefits, and a talk and support service
Professor MacLaren and his colleagues announce significant improvements in the first patients on their clinical trial
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